By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
WITH low COVID-19 infections being recorded for the past few weeks, a local infectious disease expert says it appears the recent holiday celebrations did not lead to an uptick of cases as officials initially expected.
Dr Nikkiah Forbes’ comments to The Tribune came after health officials reported ten new positive cases on Wednesday – pushing the nation’s tally to 8,021 — and confirmed 146 additional recoveries.
Yesterday also marked the end of the 14-day incubation period for the New Year holiday celebrations.
Dr Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme at the Ministry of Health, said the low numbers could be a reflection of good human behaviour and the fact that most Bahamians had adhered to the health protocols over the holiday season.
However, she said that while the numbers look “promising”, it’s still important for Bahamians not to develop false hopes and become relaxed.
“The numbers have been pretty consistently manageable in the high single digits or low double digits and that’s very promising and so it could be that we have followed the public guidelines very well and I think that’s a reflection on how well persons would’ve followed the public health guidelines,” she said.
“And COVID-19 is going to be here for a while so it’s very important that we learn to consistently do those guidelines so we can live with it and keep these cases low and to a management level essentially and so that could be a sign of that and what is happened and that’s very good because the human behaviour is a very important part of what spreads COVID-19.”
As for Wednesday’s high COVID-19 recoveries, Dr Forbes said: “It’s very good. We’re using the clinical definition which does not necessitate for retesting. It’s CDC recommendations looking at the number of days since the person tested positive and the resolution of their symptoms knowing they will not be able to transmit COVID after a certain time and so it’s very promising and we always want people to recover.”
This comes amid warnings for the country to brace for more infectious variants of COVID-19 as seen abroad that could lead to a potential third wave.
Yesterday, Dr Forbes said officials have not ruled out the possibility of a third wave, but again stressed the situation could be avoided if everyone follows all of the health protocols.
“Nobody could rule out the possibility of the third wave,” she said. “No country could do that. It’s very dependent, like I said, what we are all doing, how we are protecting ourselves and one another and then there’s also other factors – when you identify cases, when you identify them quickly, isolating the cases, doing contact tracing quickly and putting persons in quarantine and control and management of identified cases.
“That’s very important. Vaccination is going to be a very important part of the containment strategy to combat COVID-19. However, a third wave doesn’t have to happen if we’re very good and if we’re very adherent to those public health recommendations.”
The Bahamas does not currently have the capacity for the genomic sequencing that is necessary to determine if any of the new strains are present in the country.
However, Health Minister Renward Wells told reporters on Tuesday the government is currently looking at ways to secure the tools needed to do so.
“We are looking at that but, in any event, if we need to we are able to send samples abroad and get the results back very, very quickly,” he said.
“We are testing for COVID-19 (strains) if we see a circumstance that they saw in the UK where the virus was spreading at a particular rate that was unusual in regards to its normal spread then the government of The Bahamas will take normal steps to be able to test.”